SAN LUIS VALLEY, Colo. (KDVR) — Lani Welch said she was a victim of domestic violence, assault and stalking back in 2020 and when it finally came time for her first hearing, that’s when she met 12th Judicial District Attorney Alonzo Payne.
“It triggered my PTSD. It was like dealing with my offender. At one point I was told, ‘If you are fearful, then why don’t you move?'” Welch said.
Welch was not the only person who came forward about interactions with that district attorney’s office.
“In his response to my (Victim Rights Act statement), he referred to me as hysterical. I’m a victim of PTSD. Of course, I’m hysterical after a DA was disrespectful and lied to me about my offender’s history,” Welch said.
She said her interactions with him were dismissive.
“This is a huge issue. It’s not safe here. Our law enforcement isn’t safe, and victims aren’t safe until he is removed,” Welch said.
San Luis Valley DA violated victims’ rights
In an unprecedented move that has not happened in the 30-year history of the Victims Rights Act in Colorado, Attorney General Phil Weiser said the district attorney’s office tasked with prosecuting cases in the San Luis Valley violated victims’ rights.
Welch said she was one of eight from the original Victim’s Rights Act violations.
“I am more fearful of retaliation from DA Payne for speaking out,” Welch said.
According to a news release, the investigation found that Payne’s office “routinely failed to communicate with victims, consult with them about plea deals or case dismissals or treat them with respect and dignity.”
Payne and his office admitted to the following conduct and accepted responsibility for:
- The DA’s Office repeatedly failed to treat victims with dignity and respect
- The assistant DA yelled and verbally abused victims in meetings where the DA knew about the conduct but took no action or apologize to victims
- Payne left meetings with victims after disagreeing on how cases should be handled
- Payne refused to answer questions from victims and refused written victim impact statements
- Payne refused to speak with some victims altogether
- The DA’s Office failed to consult with victims over plea deals or agreements
- The DA’s Office would notify victims of their plans to submit a plea on the day of the court hearing, leaving no time to consult victims about legal steps
- Attorneys for the DA’s Office informed victims that they do not represent the victims and do not need their assistance on cases
Welch said she knew she wasn’t the only one who had negative interactions with DA Payne. She said they rallied together and started a petition to have Payne recalled.
“Just so it’s known, we had 60 days to get 3,996 signatures. We did it in just over 30 days,” Welch said.
What’s next for San Luis Valley DA Alonzo Payne
FOX31 and Channel 2 reached out to the Secretary of State’s office to see exactly where that petition sits right now. They stated:
It is in our hands at this time, but temporarily. The deadline for any individual to protest the statement of sufficiency was last Friday at 5 p.m., and the office did not receive any. If five days have passed since the deadline to protest the statement of sufficiency (this Wednesday) and the incumbent has not resigned, the Secretary of State’s Office will submit the certificate of sufficiency to the Governor. After the certificate has been sent, it is in the Governor’s Office’s hands, and they will have 24 hours to determine the date of the election.”Colorado Secretary of State’s office
The governor’s office also responded to FOX31’s request for information on the petition to recall, stating: “The Secretary of State has not issued its Certificate of Sufficiency, which triggers the Governor’s obligation to set the recall election date.”
Welch said she hopes that not only her actions but that of other victims are able to get Payne out of his position. She said she’s hopeful that will be the good that comes from the bad situation, but she doesn’t think he will go easy.
“I would much rather see him resign, but I don’t see him doing that,” Welch said.
The agreement requires the district attorney’s office to review and revise its Victim Rights Act policy and create a process to contact victims in a timely manner. It requires mandatory training and putting information on its website informing victims of their rights under the law.
A third-party monitor, which will be appointed by the AG’s office, will conduct a quarterly review to make sure the DA’s office is complying with the agreement.
The AG can go to court to enforce the order and may include drastic steps like taking away cases from the DA’s office if necessary.